Saturday, January 21, 2017

Boeing uses drone for runway water spray tests on new 737 Max jet

Boeing airplane engineers have, for the first time, used a drone to help conduct special tests on how its new 737 Max performs when as it hits heavy water while speeding down a runway.

The drone made its debut in special water tests the Chicago-based company conducted recently in Glasgow, Montana, according to a video added to Boeing's website this week.

The unmanned aerial vehicle, which Boeing called "a new teammate," helped flight test engineers capture footage from directly above the 737 Max to show exactly how the passenger jet performs as it races through simulated extreme water conditions. The images from above were combined with images they also captured from beneath the aircraft.

The jet was tested at almost takeoff speed to simulate real conditions, created with almost 3,000 gallons of water poured between foam blocks placed on the runway, Boeing said.

In the video, Matthew Filak, a test and evaluation ground operations engineer, said the tests aimed to put the new 737 Max through its paces in extreme water conditions, not unlike those in a good Pacific Northwest winter rainstorm.

The tests ensure that water sprayed up by the jet's nose gear and main landing gear won't have any negative effects on engine performance or the auxiliary power unit, Filak said.

Boeing's video stated the auxiliary power unit inlet for the 737 Max was redesigned to include a retractable door, which engineers wanted to ensure worked properly in the extreme conditions.

Boeing flight test photographer John Parker said the drone helped document the spray pattern created by the speeding 737 Max in the carefully organized tests.

"They want to make sure that water doesn't penetrate into the engine," Parker said.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

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